Framing the Good Samaritan

(from this morning’s sermon)

Consider the framing of this story. A lawyer comes to Jesus and asks him ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ What must I do…? Jesus does not answer the question by saying ‘Do? Do? It’s not about doing, you can’t earn your way to heaven by doing good works you silly boy! It’s all about faith!! Accept me as your personal Lord and Saviour here and now and you will be saved!’ Which is simply a way of saying that Jesus lived two thousand years ago, not five hundred years ago, and his approach was different to what is commonly our approach.

For Jesus, as he taught very clearly in several different places, not least when he talks about separating the sheep from the goats, it is actions that count. Not in the sense of earning our way into heaven, but in the sense that this is the form that the grace of God takes in the life of a believer. We can prattle on about holy things for as long as we like, but if the words never take shape as deeds then they are hollow words, fit only to be forgotten. The biblical notion of faith is not abstract and cerebral – it is not simply a matter of knowledge but of the orientation of the heart, and if the heart believes rightly, then it becomes faith, and faith is inevitably expressed in life, in action. In other words, your actions display what you truly believe. If you truly believe that Jesus is Lord of heaven and earth then your actions will reveal that truth…

2 thoughts on “Framing the Good Samaritan

  1. Interesting that it’s a lawyer, though, isn’t it?


    I agree with you, Rev. Sam. As you might know from my recent posts, this is just the place I depart from the Grace Alone, Faith Alone idea. But still, that idea does have a place – which I guess is what I’m trying to work out now.

    I do understand it when people ask, in response to something like “Bid thy faithful people cleanse their hearts”: well, how am I supposed to do that? That question makes sense to me. I think the Sola Fide folks might say here that it’s a lawyer asking when he must do – and Jesus’s response is, at base: “Well you can’t do anything about this on your own – but with God all things are possible.”

    I’m not sure that human beings are for the most part on our own capable of loving-by-action in the way this Samaritan does – without having been transformed in some way from within. It’s hard – exactly the way you described in your recent post, in fact, the one called “Bearing another’s burdens.”

    I think the Sole Fide crowd would say that the Samaritan’s faith is exactly what made him act like this – and that this was the point Jesus is making! (Maybe not, but it seems so to me. Anyway, I really am having difficulty working this one out! It’s complicated….)

  2. The lawyer never gets an answer to his question, which is framed in a narrow legalistic “What is the minimum can I get away with?” style. And in the end Jesus turns it around. “Who was neighbbour to him who fell among the the thieves?”

    The question is not “Who is my neighbour?” but “Who can I be a neighbour to?”

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